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Four things ULM athletic director Scott McDonald must fix in football program


Adam Hunsucker   | Monroe News-Star
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Louisiana-Monroe parted ways with football coach Matt Viator on Monday.

Viator went 19-39 in five seasons. The Warhawks fell to a program-worst 0-10 following last Saturday’s 48-15 loss to Arkansas State. ULM has finished with a winning record and played in a bowl game just once since joining FBS in 1994.

Here are four issues  athletic director Scott McDonald must address while searching for Viator’s replacement.

Solve the real problem

Names matter little until ULM addresses its current financial situation. That’s long been the impediment to success — not coaching. The athletic department could lose almost of a quarter of its budget, which is already the lowest in FBS, if McDonald can’t recover any lost guarantees from nonconference games against Arkansas and Georgia.

Viator’s $350,000 base salary is among the lowest in the FBS.

How much ULM can pay will determine the candidates. The program literally has nothing to lose, so McDonald has some carte blanche with who he pursues. Though the chances are high the next coach is a downgrade from Viator.

Local doesn’t work

No one who had a role in previous searches should have any input. The past 26 years show what local thinking accomplishes. McDonald, a veteran of past committees, gets a pass because it’s now his job.

This will be McDonald’s first search without former associate athletic director Todd Dooley, who was named the AD at Texas-Permian Basin in October. Dooley had industry connections from his time at Tennessee and was instrumental in bringing women’s basketball coach Brooks Donald-Williams and softball coach Molly Fichtner to campus.

Don’t be surprised if former ULM AD Richard Giannini is involved. Giannini serves on the advisory council for the Carr Sports Consulting firm and consulted during the 2017 AD search that led to Nick Floyd.

Unleash the plan

For years, ULM’s fan base have called for McDonald to reveal a strategic plan for the athletic department. Those efforts have been to no avail. McDonald has acknowledged there is one, but it’s nowhere to be seen as the Warhawks fall further and further behind each year.

ULM is the only school in the Sun Belt that doesn’t offer cost of attendance to athletes. Outside of a modest $4.1 million fieldhouse addition, few upgrades have been made to the football facilities. Any proposed student fee toward athletics has been shot down by students at every turn.  

The fundraising climate in the region wasn’t good even before the pandemic. It’s possible the money required just isn’t there, but there’s no way to know unless McDonald presents a plan to potential donors. Asking without a plan is just begging. And if the money isn't there, what has ULM really lost?

Patience is nonnegotiable 

Whoever gets the job as a tough road ahead. Firing Viator all but guarantees ULM’s recruiting class, which ranks second in the Sun Belt, will fall apart. Hypothetically, McDonald has until  Dec. 16 to get a new coach in place to have any hopes at salvaging — an impossible task.

That doesn’t cover the inevitable attrition from a coaching change. Throw in the departure of 18 players since the spring and this is a scorched earth of a rebuild. Coaches in every sport at ULM should get at least five years to build a program. This one may take more time than that.

Follow Adam on Twitter @adam_hunsucker